At the season’s start the suggestion that José Mourinho would start with both Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would have been summarily dismissed. The notion that the pair could be picked in the same team has seemed fanciful for much of the campaign. After all, Mata and Mourinho shared a chequered history together at Chelsea, while Mkhitaryan was frozen out of the first team picture altogether for a large chunk of the season. Yet, the duo could be the club’s most important combination as United enter the business end of the season.
Juan Mata’s recent years in the Premier League have been an enigma. While successful, the Spaniard has often appeared to be a square peg in a round hole. Somehow, and with great credit, the Spaniard has made his time at Manchester United work. The player’s style is unrecognisable from his time at Chelsea and Valencia, with his defensive workrate significantly improved, making Mata both more useful, and more modern.
Paul Pogba’s tough start to life at Manchester United is reflective of the struggle the club has faced in turning record acquisitions into real success since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In fact United has failed to extract the most from its last three record purchases: Pogba, Angel di Maria, and Juan Mata. While the players’ performances, attitude and commitment can sometimes be called into question, it also clear that the United has made precious few plans for what to do with the club’s shiny new toys.
Competition for places is a necessity for success. It keeps players at their sharpest, maintains motivation and, ultimately, is a factor driving the club forward. The introduction of a new manager can create a situation where competition is particularly important. Early performances create lasting impressions – a fact players under José Mourinho’s new regime already know.
When José Mourinho waltzed into Old Trafford eyes were quickly cast at the playing squad. Who would be retained; who would be shipped out? There were a few names that immediately stood out as destined for the chop, but after the Community Shield and first couple of Premier League fixtures a number of these unlikely lads have stepped up to prove their worth to the Portuguese manager. Some could become components in a potentially successful season.
Even in the current inflated transfer market, £37.1 million is a lot of money. Juan Mata, Manchester United’s record signing at the time of transfer in January 2014, has not yet justified the fee. While Mata’s class is clear, the Spanish midfielder has failed to become the star man so many expected.
The world’s best attacks are now summed up in acronyms. BBC (Benzema, Bale, Cristiano), MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar). They’re catchy and memorable. So what to call the new look Manchester United frontline; the M4 perhaps? Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata may have finally found a winning formula at Old Trafford – and it’s the Spaniard who is at the heart of a positive attacking renaissance.
January 25th, 2014. Ex-Chelsea playmaker Juan Mata makes his grand entrance at Manchester United, arriving aboard a helicopter at Carrington to meet Ed Woodward and David Moyes, as the Spaniard moves in a then club-record £37.1 million transfer from Stamford Bridge to Old Trafford. Almost two years to that day Mata could be heading for the exit, with the rest of this season potentially determining his future. Read More
Louis Van Gaal has been criticized of late for his insistence on possession-based tactics. Manchester United fans have become disenchanted by the perception of dull football and some have even taken to accusing Van Gaal of having lost touch with the fanbase. Read More